I am going to pick her up in three weeks. All the months of phone calls and paperwork will have culminated into this final piece to bring her home. The anticipation, the fear, the excitement, the exhaustive work of international adoption will be flung from our backs and truly the real work will begin. And it’s surreal that our pickup date for Zorey is exactly 2 years from our pickup of Israel. It’s pretty safe to say that two years ago, I was NEVER ADOPTING again. We were done, and I had actually just stepped off a cliff and was drowning in a Bulgarian hotel room filled with fear. I remember sitting on the floor crammed in the tiny hotel bathroom between the toilet and the sink at 2am, sobbing and texting my best friend. “I can’t do this; my God he is hard and scary and I can’t do this”.
The 10 days we spent in Bulgaria were the hardest days of my life. I had seen hard things in my life, I had walked in hard places, but I was actually bringing this hard thing to my place; to my home. And I was gripped with fear and truly I was also angry at God. He wouldn’t let me carry him…he didn’t want to be held….he had a deep smell of neglect….he did not stop grinding his teeth or rocking….and when we left the tight confines of our hotel room he would freak out, so we stayed many hours confined in a tiny hotel room in a foreign country. All our pictures showed smiles, but we were all swirling and drowning.
I know this makes me look pretty awful. I was horrified and scared of a malnourished 4 year-old who would not stop grinding his teeth and rocking. A little boy who was terrified to go outside and was so incredibly broken physically and emotionally from neglect and abuse. And I missed my kids and my home, and I was scared to lift and carry this broken child home to my safe world. I was scared to death that I had chosen to do something that was too hard and too big for our little family.
I could not do this, and it was in that moment that God whispered, “Stacey, you can’t do this. It was never yours to carry.” And God met me in that scary place. And interestingly, I found that I was the one who was so incredibly frail and broken, not my son. God stepped in when I stumbled and faltered and He walked with me. And I truly believe that in those darkest moments, when I was at the end of my abilities and strength…that is where I found God. Because all my good deeds and human successes meant nothing; God had never wanted my feeble attempts at sacrifice and success. He wanted me to quit gripping onto the world and my life, and instead grip His hand.
Two years later and I cannot imagine my life without Israel. It has not been easy, I will never tell you that. I won’t tell you he came home and it was perfect and he fit right in. He was a malnourished child pulled from a hell hole of an orphanage. He was broken and hurting and his whole world changed. It has been a long road; as he had never been exposed to the most simple things. But I can tell you that I have never met someone as brave and strong as Israel. He has absolutely surpassed every expectation and limitation that I placed on him. My son survived something that most would not and has come out the other side as one of the most beautiful, giving and loving children you can imagine.
So fast forward two years and now I laugh, because that ‘I am NEVER ADOPTING again’, has turned into a ‘YES, WE HAVE ROOM FOR ONE MORE’. And this pickup trip will be different, I will struggle in different ways.
Zorey will not know me. Yes, I met her and spent a week with her, but she doesn’t know me. She is 2 1/2, but developmentally a 1 year old. Spending her first year of life in an orphanage has caused serious delays. We expect this, and we have experienced this with Israel. We will be bringing home a child that does not match her chronological age and has very little language. So, she will not understand why I have taken her, or where she is going. You can imagine how difficult this will be for her.
I know that I will want to cram every single lost memory into a moment. I will want to make up for the infant cries that were never answered, the boogery nose that was not wiped, and the boo boo that wasn’t kissed. I’ll wish for captured memories on film. A photo of an infant fresh from the womb, tiny fist and ink-stained foot hallmarking a wanted child. The first gummy grin and the sleeping infant nestled in a tired mommy’s arms. I’ll want to pour into her the months without family and make up for the days that I can never get back. I’ll wish for the photos from her first two years, and know that those moments are lost and will never be mine. So, I will wish to make up for lost time, lost years, and lost memories; knowing that I can’t.
And all these emotions and feelings that have remained, must stay bottled up inside my heart. I will temper my responses because when I pick her up from the social services office, she will be mine, but she will not be ready or excited to leave. She will experience a depth of loss, while I experience the beauty of gain. I will taste her sorrow mixed with my joy. Elation and pain, hope and fear stirred by the words adoption and we will struggle as we begin the dance called adoption. And I will begin to teach her that God is carrying us.
I’ve been here before, and the dark doesn’t scare me as much anymore.